Bulls blow past Pacers by 17

Three-game skid drops Indiana out of playoff spot for now.

The Indiana Pacers couldn’t score nor play effective defense in getting blown away Wednesday night in the “Windy City.”

The Chicago Bulls hit 10 3-pointers and didn’t allow any of the Pacers to score more than 13 points in a 103-86 rout at United Center.

As a result of their third consecutive loss, the Pacers (30-37) are on the outside looking in for an Eastern Conference playoff spot. The Miami Heat (31-36) are in seventh and the Boston Celtics (30-37) sit in the eighth and final position based on the head-to-head tiebreaker with Indiana.

What’s more disconcerting for the Pacers, however, is how they’ve suddenly struggled.

The Bulls (41-28) had lost four of five without injured guards Derrick Rose and Jimmy Butler but put up more than 100 points against a team that ranked third in the league at 96.3 points allowed. It was similar to Monday night at home, when the Pacers allowed a dozen 3-pointers in a 117-98 loss to the Toronto Raptors, who had lost 10 of 12.

“They just played a better basketball game,” Pacers head coach Frank Vogel said of the Bulls in a postgame interview televised by Fox Sports Indiana. “They shot the ball better, they moved the ball better, they rebounded a little better and they got the win.”

When the Pacers were winning, going 13-2 from Feb. 4 through six days ago, they prevailed with scoring balance and defense. That included a seven-game winning streak.

But the balance was in smaller numbers this night. Forward Solomon Hill led the Pacers with just 13 points, 11 of those in the third quarter. Center Roy Hibbert scored 12, guard Rodney Stuckey 11 and guard C.J. Miles, guard George Hill and forward Luis Scola each had 10.

The Pacers were also outrebounded 52-38, the second consecutive game they’ve been dominated by double digits on the boards. The Raptors had a 51-36 edge two nights ago.

Bulls forward Nikola Mirotic scored a game-high 25 points off the bench.

“He’s spectacular,” Vogel said. “He’s given us a lot of problems. … He’s a heck of a weapon off the bench and we clearly didn’t do a good enough job on him.”

Forward Mike Dunleavy had 21 and forward Pau Gasol 19 points and 12 rebounds. Center Joakim Noah scored just six points and grabbed a game-high 14 rebounds.

Indiana’s top rebounder was forward David West with seven.

The Bulls were 10-of-24 in 3-pointers while the Pacers made 6-of-19. Chicago also sank 25-of-28 free throws to Indiana’s 16-of-21.

A two-point game after one quarter stretched to a 51-41 Bulls advantage by halftime. The Pacers had cut the deficit to three points in the third quarter before Chicago surged to enjoy an eight-point advantage by quarter’s end.

C.J. Watson hit a pair of 3-pointers to get the Pacers to within six points with 6:47 remaining, but Kirk Hinrich blocked a Watson layup attempt, then hit a 3-pointer at the other end. Mirotic sank two free throws to provide a double-digit lead Chicago would never again relinquish. The Bulls outscored the Pacers 27-18 in the final quarter.

The Pacers are 6-31 when trailing after three quarters.

Backup center Ian Mahinmi exited for the locker room holding his right shoulder early in the fourth quarter. He was tested for a concussion and did not have any concussion-like symptoms but had a neck stinger, said Vogel, who expects the reserve to return for the next game.

That next game looks to be an even greater challenge as the Pacers visit the Cleveland Cavaliers (44-26) and LeBron James on Friday night.

Phillip B. Wilson can be found on Twitter (@pwilson24), Facebook and Google+.


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